THE ROLE OF PERSONALITY AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN CROATIAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS’ EXPERIENCE AND COMPETENCIES IN THE WORK WITH GIFTED CHILDREN
Many empirical studies have clearly demonstrated that a teacher’s personality plays an important role in the process of learning and teaching. High levels of extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience have shown to be significant in inclusive teachers and successful teachers. Similarly, in the work with all children, teachers’ personality has proven to be very important in the work with gifted children. In addition to the role of personality traits, primary school teachers’ professional development showed to be the significant factor in their competences to efficiently work with gifted children.
Contemporary teachers’ professional development requires directing their professional skill-set towards the individual characteristics of each student, with particular emphasis on their specific academic, social, and emotional needs. As a heterogeneous group with great individual differences, gifted children need to be identified. It is assumed that teachers have the necessary competencies to identify gifted students so that they could ensure the development of their abilities. However, prior studies in Croatia clearly demonstrated that systematic identification and work with gifted children within the educational system is not provided efficiently. Additionally, primary school teachers reported about their need for additional and continuous development of competences for identification and educational work with gifted children.
Therefore, the aim of this research was to explore the primary school teachers’ experiences and self-reported competences in education work with gifted children, their personality traits and types of professional development. Also, the relationship between these variables was in the focus of this study too. Research was conducted on a national representative sample of 1195 Croatian primary school teachers, as a part of university research project. Three scales were used: Scale of Perceived Gifted Education Competencies, Types of Professional Development Scale and the Ten Item Personality Inventory.
Results showed that more than 52% of teachers reported not to have had any teaching experience with gifted students. Teachers self-evaluated the lowest level of Gifted Education competencies through university programs for professional teacher preparation; moderate level through the programs of continuous professional development; and the highest level by self-learning. Regarding the correlation analyses, it was determined that personality traits are not significantly correlated with the teachers’ experience in working with gifted children, as it was expected. On the other hand, all personality traits are significantly positively related with the self-learning method within professional development, and agreeableness and openness to experience are significantly positively correlated with teachers’ engagement in the professional development programs. Therefore, different types of professional development and personality traits are determined as significant variables in exploring teachers’ competences for working with gifted children, which provide important guidelines for creating more than necessary university programs that ensure quality education for working with gifted children.